[6.1] Hinc ad capessendōs magistrātūs in urbem dēgressus Domitiam Decidiānam, splendidīs nātālibus ortam, sibi iūnxit; idque mātrimōnium ad maiōra nītentī decus ac rōbur fuit. vīxēruntque mīrā concordiā, per mūtuam cāritātem et in vicem sē antepōnendō, nisi quod in bonā uxōre tantō maior laus, quantō in mālā plūs culpae est. [6.2] Sors quaestūrae prōvinciam Asiam, prōcōnsulem Salvium Titiānum dedit, quōrum neutrō corruptus est, quamquam et prōvincia dīves ac parāta peccantibus, et prōcōnsul in omnem aviditātem prōnus quantālibet facilitāte redēmptūrus esset mūtuam dissimulātiōnem malī. Auctus est ibi fīliā, in subsidium simul ac sōlācium; nam fīlium ante sublātum brevī āmīsit. [6.3] Mox inter quaestūram ac tribūnātum plēbis atque ipsum etiam tribūnātūs annum quiēte et ōtiō trānsiit, gnārus sub Nerōne temporum, quibus inertia prō sapientiā fuit. [6.4] Idem praetūrae tenor et silentium; nec enim iūrisdictiō obvēnerat. Lūdōs et inānia honōris mediō ratiōnis atque abundantiae dūxit, utī longē ā luxuriā ita fāmae propior. [6.5] Tum ēlēctus ā Galbā ad dōna templōrum recognōscenda dīligentissimā conquīsītiōne fēcit nē cuius alterīus sacrilegium rēs pūblica quam Nerōnis sēnsisset.

Overview: The official career of Agricola from the quaestorship through the praetorship; his marriage and his domestic relations. (Stuart)


hinc: “thereafter;” it may, however, be taken locally.

dēgressus: rarely used, as here, of departure from a place. After the middle of the last century BCE, a candidate was legally required to file notice of candidacy in person. The date of Agricola's return was 61 CE. (Stuart); in 61 CE, the marriage probably taking place the year after. (Gudeman); here goes with both hinc and in. (Fox)

Domitiam Decidiānam: her father's name was Decidius Domitius. Thus we see that under the Empire a lady's name was taken from the nomen of the father, with a derivative of some other family name (here the father's praenomen) added as a cognomen. (Pearce)

splendidīs: often used of illustrious birth. (Gudeman)

nātālibus: a post-Augustan expression for origo, genus, or maiores, first found in Seneca Rhetor. (Gudeman); frequent in Tacitus and Pliny in the sense of ancestry or stock. Domitia's father was one Domitius Decidius, probably a native of Gaul. He had held the posts of quaestor of the treasury and of praetor under the emperor Claudius. (Stuart)

decus ac rōbur: a source of social prestige (because of his alliance with an illustrious senatorial family) and of material support because by the provisions of the Lex Papia Poppaea, enacted by Augustus in 9 CE, candidates for office were given precedence on the basis of the number of their children. (Stuart)  rōbur: i.e. material help in his political career. (Pearce)  decus ac rōbur fuit: the nominative in place of the dative in these and like phrases is poetic. ... a son having been born to Agricola in 63/64 CE, he was enabled to stand for the quaestorship one year before the legal age, he being then but 24 years old. A deduction of one year was granted for each and every child. (Gudeman)

per mūtuam ... antepōnendō: per may mean (1) "by means of," and give the reason of the concordia; or it may mean (2) "in a state of," and serve merely to expand the meaning of concordia. See note on 3.2 per silentium.  In (1) anteponendo will be an abl. of cause; in (2) it will be that loose use of the abl. of the gerund which expresses the circumstances under which the action of the verb takes place. (Pearce) [A&G 404; 507]  per mūtuam cāritātem: the coordination of the prepositional phrase and a case construction (i.e. anteponendo) is a favorite device of Tacitus to avoid parallelism in expression. This stylistic phenomenon is termed "inconcinnity." See Introduction, p. xxiii and 41.2, temeritate aut per ignaviam ducum. (Stuart)  in vicem sē antepōnendō: “each according precedence to the other.” (Stuart); “each regarding the other as superior.” An instrumental ablative added to the per clause (see Introd. p. xxxiv, #2), for the sake of closer definition, the et being epexegetic (see Introd. p. xxx, #18). In vicem, for the classical inter se, is generally used without se. (Gudeman)  [A&G 408]

nisi quod: “except that,” introduces a limitation of the preceding idea, viz. that husband and wife were equally praiseworthy. Tacitus implies that good wives were rarer than good husbands. (Pearce); Tacitus doubtless intended this as a gallant compliment to his mother-in-law, who may well have still been living when this biography was published. (Gudeman)


sors quaestūrae: a quaestor was allotted to each senatorial province. (Stuart)

Asiam: provincia Asia included, besides the adjacent islands, that portion of Asia Minor bounded by Bithynia on the north, Galatia on the east, Lycia and Pisidia on the south and southeast. (Stuart)

Salvium Titiānum: L. Salvius Otho Titianus, brother of Otho, the future emperor, was consul in 52 CE and again in 69 CE, proconsul in 63/64 CE. After the death of Otho, he was pardoned ... (Hist. 2.60.2). (Gudeman); Agricola was his quaestor in 64 CE. (Pearce)

dedit: sc. ei. The ellipsis of the demonstrative pronoun is particularly common in Tacitus. See Introd. p. xxxi, #4. (Gudeman)

neutrō: "by neither circumstance," the wealth of the province and the fact that his superior was corrupt. (Stuart); = neutra re. (Gudeman)

parāta: supply esset. Tacitus omits forms of the subjunctive of esse freely when, as here, the mood is expressed in a following coordinate construction. (Stuart)  parāta peccantibus: “offering every facility for corruption,” i.e. by its wealth and its bad traditional system of extortion. (Pearce); a province was often regarded as a legitimate field for extortion and personal aggrandizement. To have resisted so strong a temptation was, therefore, a special proof of Agricola's integrity. The praise here accorded to Agricola is, however, somewhat inconsistent with ch. 9.3. (Gudeman)

prōcōnsul ... malī: Tacitus has here, in order to emphasize the honesty of his hero, been guilty of a slight suppressio veri, for Agricola served the greater part of his quaestorship under L. Antistius Vetus, proconsul of Asia for 64/65 CE, a lofty character, as appears from Tacitus himself, in Ann. 16.10-11. (Gudeman)

facilitāte: "compliance." (Stuart); "indulgence." (Pearce)

mūtuam dissimulātiōnem malī: "mutual connivance at wrong-doing." Strictly speaking, Tacitus means "connivance at his own wrongdoing in return" for his facilitas. For dissimulatio, concealment of another's wrongdoing, see note on 39.2. (Pearce); the proconsul was willing to connive at any rascality on the part of his subordinate, provided the latter would, in turn, promise to be blind to his misdeeds. (Gudeman)

auctus: a conventional term, "blessed by the addition of a daughter (to his family)." (Stuart); i.e. his family was increased by the birth of a daughter. ... This daughter subsequently became the wife of Tacitus. (Gudeman)

redēmptūrus: “ready to purchase.” (Pearce)

ibi: in Republican times and in the reign of Augustus wives were forbidden, as a rule, to accompany their husbands to the provinces. Under subsequent emperors the regulation was modified. Agricola's wife was with him in Britain, the daughter here referred to became the wife of Tacitus and accompanied him to his command; Calpurnia, the third wife of Pliny, went out to Bithynia with her husband. (Stuart)

in subsidium: because he could again enjoy the privileges of office-holding and of inheritance granted by the lex Papia Poppaea. (Stuart); in expresses "the result." Subsidium may refer to the precedence given (by the lex Papia Poppaea, 9 CE) to candidates for office who had children. (Pearce)  in subsidium simul et sōlācium: on the alliteration, see Introd. p. xxviii, #13 and on the position of simul, see Introd. p. xxviii, #13. (Gudeman)

sublātum: equivalent to natum. The new-born child was laid at the feet of the father to be raised in acknowledgment of paternity. (Stuart)


mox = deinde. (Stuart)

inter quaestūram ac tribūnātum: the phrase is used adjectively. Translate as if annum preceded inter. This construction, used with great circumspection by Cicero and by Caesar in the Gallic War, is found frequently in Livy and in Tacitus. See note on 6.3, sub Nerone temporum, chapter 36.1, in arto pugnam, etc. (Stuart); i.e. annum inter quaesturam, etc., the incongruity being due to the author's desire to avoid the awkward repetition of annus. It seems that in the regular cursus honorum an interval of one year was required between each of the offices here mentioned. (Gudeman)

tribūnātum plēbis: he was tribune in 66 CE. (Pearce)

quiēte et ōtiō: the modal ablative without cum or a determining adjective is common in Tacitus, as in the poets. (Pearce) [A&G 412]; not a difficult task. The tribunes had been shorn of real power. The right of intercession was retained in theory, but was exercised at the risk of incurring imperial displeasure. (Stuart); on this and a similar often recurring group of synonyms, see ch. 21.1, 40.4, 42.1. (Gudeman)

gnārus: to be joined to temporum. (Gudeman)

segnitia prō sapientiā: with the thought, see Hist. 1.49.3, sed claritas natalium ... obtentui, ut, quod segnitia erat, sapientia vocaretur, translated, “The nobility of his birth and the perils of the times made what was really indolence pass for wisdom.” In Agricola, however, the conditions were reversed. (Gudeman)  prō sapientiā: a justification of the discrete opportunism of Agricola, which contrasted unfavorably with the bold front maintained in the same year by his colleague Arulenus Rusticus in defense of Thrasea Paetus. See note on chapter 2.1. (Stuart)


idem ... silentium: the meaning of this statement, though corrupted in the mss., is clear. Agricola's praetorship passed without any features worthy of record. The et is epexegetic. (Gudeman)  praetūrae: if we allow the usual interval of a year, Agricola's praetorship would fall in 68 CE. (Stuart)  tenor: an emendation of the manuscript’s unsyntactic certior. (Fox)

iūrisdictiō: during the Empire, the number of praetors occasionally rose as high as eighteen, but only the praetor urbanus and praetor peregrinus possessed ex officio civil jurisdiction. The absence of these judicial functions, therefore, still further accounts for the inconspicuous character of Agricola's incumbency of the office. (Gudeman)

lūdōs: the activity of many of the praetors was confined to the direction of festivals and games and the supervision of the regions of the City. (Stuart); transferred from the aediles to the praetors by Augustus. (Pearce)  lūdōs ... dūxit: a Tacitean coinage modeled upon pompam (funus) ducere, and employed to avoid the stereotyped phrase ludos facere. This tendency to discard the trite and commonplace is one of the most significant features of Tacitean style. See Introd. p. xxxv, #7. (Gudeman)

inānia honōris: including ludos; hence, translate, “and the rest of the empty show of office.” The connection of a genitive with a neuter adjective, generally plural but sometimes singular, is a marked feature of Tacitean syntax. (Stuart); explains ludos by a more general expression. Notice the use of the neuter plural of an adjective with a genitive to fill the place of an abstract noun. ... See note on 12.4 extrema terrarum. (Pearce); with inania supply cetera, for the ludi are included among these. Translate: “and what other empty pageantry of the office there was.” (Gudeman)

mediō: ablat. of the way "by which." (Pearce) [A&G 418a]  mediō moderātiōnis: i.e. these games he conducted on a scale midway between economy and extravagance. The genitive with medius is chiefly poetic. (Gudeman) [A&G 349.d]

dūxit: we might say "he guided ... in a course midway between." (Stuart)

utī ... ita: “although ... yet.” Agricola's discretion in expenditure enhanced his reputation in the eyes of sensible people, all the more because extravagance was the rule. (Stuart)  utī longē &c.: explains medio. uti ... ita here introduce two different points of view of the same thing, "approaching nearer to credit," i.e. "gaining credit (viz. for good sense) by avoiding extravagance." Or uti ... ita might have the ordinary force of a strong contrast, and explain moderationis and abundantiae respectively; "avoiding extravagance, yet with due consideration for his reputation." Famae then would mean "reputation with the populace." (Pearce)

fāmae propior: i.e. he came nearer to acquiring distinction in this matter than one would have expected, because reckless extravagance in furnishing amusement to the people was the time-honored method of gaining popularity. The statement furnishes a good illustration of Tacitus's skill in turning to his hero's credit what was at best an indifferent performance. (Gudeman)


Galbā: the successor of Nero; his reign extended from June 9, 68 CE to January 15, 69 CE. (Stuart)

ad dōna ... recognōscenda: Agricola was commissioned to inventory the sacred treasures with a view to discovering and reclaiming lost articles. (Stuart); probably this refers to temple property carried away by private individuals during the great fire under Nero, who had himself replenished his own losses by depleting the temples throughout the empire of their art treasures. These latter were now beyond restitution, but the others were collected with such success that the commonwealth no more felt their absence than if they had never been removed. This idea is implied in the pluperfect. (Gudeman)

fecit ne: ne is used not uncommonly in a negative consecutive clause for ut non. (Stuart) [A&G 537a with the note]  effecit ne: the "final" construction with effecit is owing to the idea of "purpose" which accompanies that of "result." (Pearce) [A&G 568 and A&G 563]  fecit is in the manuscript. In emending it to effecit, a verb that commonly introduces substantive clauses of result (see A&G 568), editors assume that "e" fell out after conquisitione (see note above). (Damon)

alterīus: see note on 5.3. (Pearce)

quam Nerōnis: Nero pillaged Italy and the provinces to obtain works of art and treasure. (Stuart)

sēnsisset: a rhetorical and effective use of the pluperfect to express the complete success of Agricola's efforts. Even the memory of the past is wiped out. We must translate less vigorously, “so that it was as if the state had never suffered from them.” (Pearce)

hinc: hence, next

capessō capessere capessiī/capessīvī capessitūrus: to undertake

magistrātus magistrātūs m.: magistracy, civil duties

dēgredior dēgredī dēgressus sum: to come down, descend

Domitia –ae f.: Domitia Decidiana

Decidiāna –ae f.: Decidiana

splendidus –a –um: brilliant, illustrious

nātālis –e: lineage, family

mātrimōnium –ī(ī) n.: marriage

nītor nītī nīxus sum: to strive

rōbur rōboris n.: strength

mīrus –a –um: wonderful

concordia concordiae f.: unity, harmony

mūtuus –a –um: mutual

cāritās cāritātis f.: affection

vicis vicis f.: change, succession; (in expression in vicem) by turns

antepōnō antepōnere anteposuī antepositum: to place before, prefer

quod: in that, the fact that, because

quaestūra –ae f.: quaestorship

Asia –ae: Roman province of Asia

prōcōnsul prōcōnsulis m.: proconsul

Salvius –ī m.: Salvius Titianus

Titiānus –ī m.: Salvius Titianus

neuter neutra neutrum: neither

aviditās aviditātis f.: greed

prōnus –a –um: inclined

quantuslibet quantalibet quantumlibet: as great as you please

facilitās –ātis f.: courtesy, good nature, affability

redimō –imere –ēmī –emptum: to purchase

dissimulātiō dissimulātiōnis f.: concealment, supression

subsidium subsidi(ī) n.: support, help

sōlācium sōlāci(ī) n.: consolation, solace

brevī: in a short time, shortly

tribūnātus –ūs m.: office of tribune

quiēs quiētis f.: rest, quiet

gnārus –a –um: having knowledge, aware

Nerō –ōnis m.: Nero

inertia inertiae f.: inactivity, idleness

praetūra praetūrae f.: praetorship

tenor –ōris m.: course

silentium silenti(ī) n.: silence

iūrisdictiō iūrisdictiōnis f.: court business, administration of justice

obveniō –venīre –vēnī –ventum: to fall to

lūdus lūdī m.: game; (pl.) festival such as the Ludi Romani

inānis inānis ināne: idle, vain

abundantia –ae f.: abundance, lavishness

luxuria luxuriae f.: extravagance

propior propius: nearer

Galba –ae f.: Galba

recognōscō recognōscere recognōvī recognitus: to revise, review

dīligēns: careful, painstaking

conquīsītiō conquīsītiōnis f.: investigation

sacrilegium –ī n.: sacrilege

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Suggested Citation

Cynthia Damon, Tacitus: Agricola. Carlisle, Pennsylvania: Dickinson College Commentaries, 2016. ISBN: 978-1-947822-09-2. http://dcc.dickinson.edu/tacitus-agricola/6